How are we to prepare ourselves to partake of the Lord’s Supper?
The Westminster Larger Catechism (Q.171) tells us:
They that receive the sacrament of the Lord’s supper are, before they come, to prepare themselves thereunto, by examining themselves of their being in Christ, of their sins and wants; of the truth and measure of their knowledge, faith, repentance, love to God and the brethren, charity to all men, forgiving those that have done them wrong; of their desires after Christ, and of their new obedience, and by renewing the exercise of these graces, by serious meditation and fervent prayer.
So self-examination is the place to start. We may live in a narcissistic culture, but true self-examination seems quite rare, even in the church.
The first thing to ask yourself is whether or not you are a Christian. Are you trusting in Jesus alone for your salvation from sin and death, or are you still trusting in your own goodness or deeds to make you right with a holy God? Isaiah 64:6 warns us that our own righteous deeds are nothing but “filthy rags” that will not cover our sins before the Lord. Only the righteousness of Christ and His death can cover our sins.
The next thing we are to ask ourselves is whether or not there are particular sins and weaknesses that we need to repent of. Are we believing the truth of God’s Word? Are we striving to know God and His Word?
Do we love God (who loved us first)? Do we truly love our brethren (our fellow Christians)? Do we love our neighbors?
Have we truly, sincerely, and freely forgiven anyone who has done us wrong? (Have you told them so?) This is so important that it is included in the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13)! We ask our heavenly Father to “forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (v.12). Ask yourself this question: Would you or I be happy if God forgave us exactly (and only to the extent!) that we have forgiven others?
And then, just in case we miss the point, Jesus repeats it a 2nd time in v.14-15:
For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your heavenly Father forgive your trespasses.
Evidently our Lord knew that we His people would have a major problem in this area, so He included this in the very pattern that He gave us for prayer!
Next, do we have a fervent desire for Christ? Do we really and sincerely desire to live obediently to Him?
Sounds like a tall order, doesn’t it?
None of us is sufficient for these things. We must let our consideration of these things lead us to cast ourselves on Christ and Him alone! And that is really what the Supper is all about, isn’t it? When we partake, we “proclaim His death until He comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26). We proclaim it to each other!
So whenever the Lord’s Supper is to be observed at your church, use it as an opportunity for a spiritual check-up of sorts for you and your family. Make the most of this means of grace that our Lord Jesus has given to His church for our benefit and growth in grace!